Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Month: August 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Hyatt Regency Palais du la Mediteranee: A Review

Location: Nice, France

Overall Rating: 9/10

The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée has an enviable location along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. The gorgeous blue water of the Mediterranean is at your doorstep, and the Vieux Ville (Old Town) is a mere 10 minute walk. All the research I did when planning our summer trip to Europe pointed to this hotel as the best option for our stay in Nice. With our Hyatt free night certificates freshly in hand, I used all but one to book a three night stay for the first few nights of our trip. The cash rate was running about €400 per night, so I’d say this was a great use of our free nights!

The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditeranée is very easy to access from the airport. The #98 express bus runs from the airport to the promenade and old town every 20 minutes for most of the day, and it is a bargain at €6 per person one-way. A taxi or Uber journey will run you an easy €40, if not substantially more! And lest you think it may be inconvenient to walk from a bus stop to the hotel, bus #98 literally stops just down the block from the Hyatt Regency.

nice_hyatt entrance

Across the Promenade des Anglais from the hotel.

The hotel looks impressive from the outside. The hotel entry is on the corner, where you are greeted by a beautiful lobby and cheerful staff. The front desk staff were very helpful and professions. At check in we were given a modest upgrade to a “Partial Sea View” room.

nice_hyatt hallway

Eighth floor hallway.

We made our way up to our room on the 8th floor. The elevator and hall are elegant, but definitely not overstated. Our room was the second to last one on the floor and quite a ways from the elevator.

The doors used the modern NFC key cards, which I much prefer to the old mag-stripe ones, which I often have trouble with. This stay would have gone smoothly, except it was on three reservations (each Hyatt free night has to be booked individually). Our keys seemed to reset during the middle of each day. I had expected the staff to link the reservations, but that didn’t seem to affect the programming of the room keys. We had to get new ones every afternoon.

hyatt nice hall

Entry hall.

The layout of the room was nice. There was a small toilet room directly to the left as you enter, then the bathroom on the left, closet on the right, and the actual room beyond.

hyatt nice bathroom

Bathroom sink and tub.

The bathroom was lovely. It featured a very nice tub, sizable sink, and a large tiled shower. My wife’s only complaint was the placement of the hair dryer. It was located on the left side, the cord wasn’t especially long, and you had to push the button the whole time to keep it on. It was awkward as she (and most people) are right handed. But it was a small detail.

hyatt_nice shower

Shower.

The room as a whole was absolutely wonderful and the nicest in which we had ever stayed. At that moment I could say that it was my favorite hotel ever, but my perspective may have been skewed by the fact that we had just finished a brutal 25 hours of travel. It was a perfect oasis of comfort.

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Bed and nightstands.

The bed was heavenly. We slept very well our first night, and the next two as well. One handy thing was the fact that the light switches next to the lamps didn’t just control the lamps, but other lights in the room, too.

hyatt_nice desk

Large desk.

The desk was large and comfortable. There was a small tray with a hot water kettle, two mugs, tea, and instant coffee. The instant coffee was a surprise. With the going rate for the place often over €400, I figured they would offer better than that. Nescafé really doesn’t cut it.

nice_hyatt desk closeup

Desk closeup.

Compared to a U.S. hotel of similar quality, the T.V. was small. It didn’t really matter, though, because we never turned it on. Besides the first night of our vacation, I don’t think we ever turned a TV on. With how connected millennials’ lives are to the internet, I wonder if the television will be obsoleted someday.

hyatt_nice toilet

Yes, that’s a phone on the wall.

The place had three phones. One on the desk, one by the bed, and one…..in the toilet room. Cause that’s totally normal. This was actually mystifying at first, and after doing some research, the best answer I found was that it is most likely just because of the diamond ratings for properties, and also likely a holdover for business travelers from the pre-cellphone days.

The room had a small computerized minibar with a selection of drinks and snacks. We never help ourselves to any, but the prices started around €5 and moved quickly upward. There was a small section in the minibar that we used to store our own food.

hyatt_nice view

Our 8th floor room was classified as ‘Partial Sea View’. In reality, it was a pool view room. While it is true that the ocean is technically visible from the balcony, because of the structure of the front of the hotel, we could only see a few square feet of the Mediterranean. The better rooms were clearly either one floor up, or a few floors down.

The balcony with table and chairs was great for relaxing. We spent some time enjoying the warm and humid summer air of the French Riviera.

The room did give us a view of the pool and terrace restaurant. On our final morning, I finally took a half-hour swim. Staff were busy cleaning and setting out towels, and I felt like I was disrupting them a little. I don’t think they expected anyone in the pool so early.

hyatt_nice pool

The pool was fantastic. The final day included a morning swim as other guests headed to breakfast.

Since neither my wife nor I have Hyatt Diamond status, breakfast wasn’t complimentary. Nor was it included in our rate. The morning buffet costs over €25 per person, so we weren’t even tempted. I enjoyed breakfast one morning at a little place just down the street called Sarao.

nice_breakfast not_hyatt

Breakfast at Sarao for ~€8. One minute walk from the Hyatt Regency.

It was quite good, and I felt like it gave me at least a taste of the typical French breakfast. The coffee is still American style. I can’t get used to the typical French coffees, which are essentially a shot of espresso.

nice_breakfast seating

Nice is quiet in the morning. The place was nearly empty at 8:00 a.m.

The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée has great beach access. The hotel offers daily sunbed and umbrella reservations at one of the private beaches nearby for €27. This is a bit rich for my blood, not to mention sunning myself on the beach really isn’t my thing.

nice_beach

The brilliant azure water of the Bay of Angels.

The old city is a mere ten minute walk, and was the highlight of our time in Nice. My wife loved the market. Nice is famous for its flower market, but there are plenty more vendors selling local produce, cheeses, and other products.

The best treat, though, was the socca, a regional specialty. It is like a giant pancake made of chickpea flour, water, oil, and salt. Fresh out of the pan, socca is absolutely delicious! We wife hopes to make it at home.

nice_socca

Overall, our stay at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée was a spectacular use of our free night certificates. Nice is very expensive in the summer, and we were able to stay at a wonderful beachfront hotel for only the cost of the city taxes (~$20). Our room was wondrously comfortable and the hotel was in a great location. It is a stay that I would gladly repeat.

How 2 Award Stays Can Earn You Another Free Night

One of the things I love about the Starwood Preferred Guest program is that you can earn through the “Make A Green Choice” program. While you can certainly use this program on paid stays as well, it’s especially cool that you can earn significant points back while on an award stay.

The SPG “Make A Green Choice” program is simple. For each day that you decline housekeeping (except the day of your departure) the hotel gives you a voucher. The voucher can be typically redeemed for ~$5 in food or drink, donated to UNICEF, or exchanged at check-out for Starpoints. I always choose the Starpoints. The goal of the program is to promote conservation of water and resources, and while many other hotels simply ask you to conserve (e.g. by hanging up your towels so that they don’t replace them), Starwood gives the customer an incentive.

If the hotel is a full service property, such as the Sheraton, you will receive 500 Starpoints per voucher. At the limited service brands of Four Points, Element, and Aloft, each voucher is only worth 250 Starpoints. I find the sweet spot of the benefit to be Category 1 and 2 Sheratons, where you can receive 1/8 to 1/4 of your points back each night on award stays. On paid stays, it’s simply a bonus. Note that not every SPG property participates in the “Make a Green Choice” program.

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We received 5 “Make a Green Choice” vouchers from our recent stay at the Sheraton Roma.

On our recent trip to Europe, my wife and I had three Starwood stays. The first was a single night at the St. Regis Rome, so we could not participate in the “Make A Green Choice” program for that stay. The second two were at Sheraton hotels. Our first stay was 6 nights, for which we declined housekeeping every day, and in exchange were given 5 vouchers. The second stay was 3 nights, and we received two vouchers, again declining housekeeping each day. Because Sheraton hotels are full-service SPG properties, we redeemed these vouchers for a total of 3,500 Starpoints. Including the SPG Gold elite welcome amenity of 250 Starpoints at each property, we earned a total of 4,000 Starpoints from our 2 stays, enough to book our final night at the Four Points Toronto Pearson for our overnight layover! Two award stays equal another award stay. Score!

I think the SPG “Make A Green Choice” program is great. I use it nearly every time I stay with Starwood. While I may be a bit cynical in believing that the actual driver behind the program is the hotels’ bottom line, rather than the environment, the program certainly does save resources, and it gives guests a real incentive to conserve. I wish more hotel chains would launch a program like this.

Header image courtesy of the Sheraton Athlone. 

I Always Love Fielding Award Travel Questions

One thing I love about this hobby is passing on the knowledge I’ve gained to others. It isn’t all that often I get a chance to talk to someone who is actually interested. Most of the time when I launch into the details of how my wife and I managed a three week Canadian summer (and then a two week winter) vacation and thirty days in Europe, people’s eyes glaze over. They say they want to know how we manage it, but often they really don’t. It was really just a polite conversation starter.

questions

So it thrills me when someone shows a real interest in my award travel hobby. Today I received an email from my friend Paul (not his real name):

Hi Ian,
I understand you’re pretty savvy with credit cards. I’ve got one or two questions for you.
Last year I got the United Mileage Plus Visa card with a mileage bonus. Now it’s time to start paying the $95 per year to keep the card. Once we use the miles on this card I think it will take several years to build up enough miles to use them again for a trip to Guatemala. It takes something like 60,000 miles for a roundtrip to Guatemala.
You seem to be able to amass mileage points pretty quickly. Could you share how you do that? I’m assuming you don’t put several thousand $$ on your card each month. Maybe you do.
God bless, 
Paul
Guatemala-213

I used United miles last summer to join Paul and others on a mission trip to Guatemala.

Paul is right. I don’t put thousands of dollars on my cards each month. Well, not more than a couple for normal expenses. There are people who can generate points this way through “manufactured spending”, but I am not one of them. My response to Paul was basically the a primer on how to amass points through credit card offers:

Hey Paul,

I’ll gladly share…..this is one of my favorite topics. The primary way that my wife and I accrue so many points is by routinely applying for credit cards with sign up bonuses. While we can’t pick up a bonus on the United card all that often, we have applied for others, including the AA Platinum Select card, the Southwest card, the Alaska Visa, several hotel cards, and more. At the time last year I happened to have enough United miles to get to Guatemala. We have used our Southwest and Alaska miles to fly across the country, and recently Delta and United miles to fly to/from Europe. Kels and I each pick up 5-10 credit cards per year. We don’t add each other as authorized users, which does help us apply for more cards more easily. Some people are not comfortable playing with their credit this way. Candidly, my score started about 780 a couple years ago and has flattened at ~740, which is still pretty good. There is really no other easy way to accrue lots of miles except through taking lots of offers like this. Some people are not comfortable with this sort of thing, and I totally understand that.

While we apply for lots of different offers to gets various mileage currencies, we do also reapply for the same cards after a while. After enough time has elapsed, typically 2+ years, you can reapply for a card with an issuing bank. Each issuer has different rules on reapplication. With Chase, who issues the United cards, you are eligible for a new bonus 24 months after you received the last bonus, which is sometime 1-3 months after you initially got the card. Citi has some new rules based on opening/closing date and card family type, and Amex is the toughest with a “once per product type” bonus rule. I initially got my first United card 2 1/2 years ago and ultimately canceled it, and I just recently reapplied and got another bonus when the offer was at 50k.

What I did the first time I had the United credit card was keep it for 23 months, thus paying the $95 once, and then canceled it. You could in theory cancel after 11 months and not pay the fee at all (since the first year is usually free), but I sometimes keep mine over the first fee cycle since it is a little more fair by the bank because they will profit a bit more off you and off of your use of the card. What I don’t let them profit off of is interest since that totally defeats the purpose of free travel. Paying an annual fee now and then, though, to me, is fair since they have allowed me to get so many of their products. And paying $95 for enough points for a round-trip to Latin America still leaves me quite a bit ahead.

Also, true “saver” award space for Latin America is 35k miles round-trip. Flying out of Arcata, availability at this level is going to be limited. You will have better options for multiple award seats out of SFO. When I booked last summer, I only found saver economy space headed back, saver business space there, and no options out of Arcata. It came to a total of 47,500 miles, which I was very happy to pay instead of $800+, but still had wished it was 35k round-trip.

The other way to accrue United miles by credit card is through a currency that can transfer to them. There is only one good one: Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR). If you are looking for more United points, look into getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It is free the first year, but has a fairly high initial spending requirement. The bonus offer is usually 40-50k points, and they can transfer 1:1 to United miles. You can also get a Chase Freedom which has rotating bonus categories where you earn 5x points per dollar, but you can only transfer Freedom UR points to United miles if you have the Chase Sapphire as well. As you’ve seen, typically the gains from regular spending don’t outpace the miles accumulation fast enough to make it all that worthwhile. However, the Chase Freedom has no annual fee and is a good card to get once and keep open. It usually has a 10k points offer associated with it. What you could do is get a freedom and keep it, and then pick up the Sapphire every 2-3 years.

I am going to have links sent to you for the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred in case you are interested. Chase has a “rule” you should know about called “5/24”. Typically, if you have 5+ new accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just them), they won’t approve you for a card product. This isn’t hard and fast, but it is a general rule of thumb.

Beyond credit cards, I have a couple other ways of getting more miles. When I rent a car for work, I will often check Hertz’s price through United, and if comparable to our company’s contracted provider, I will book through them instead for 2,000-2,250 United miles (when there is a promotion running). I also link my credit cards to the United (or Southwest) dining programs and eat at participating restaurants when I am traveling for work and it is expensed. Not a huge bonus, but every bit helps, and this is a perk I am able to take advantage of from my job.

You could also explore either Alaska or Delta’s award program. There are a couple currencies that can transfer to Delta miles, as well as a couple credit card options (all Amex, so only one bonus per card product). You would have to fly out of SFO on either. Potentially you could fly out of Santa Rosa using Alaska miles, but that is the closest airport. Alaska credit cards are usually fairly easy to get through Bank of America, and their miles can be redeemed on partner flights with both Delta and American, as well as Alaska flights themselves. Technically, you can now fly out of Arcata on Alaska Airlines because the new airline, PenAir, is a partner, but you cannot mix partners on Alaska awards, and they do not directly fly to Guatemala. It would be a PenAir-Alaska-Delta/American award, and that isn’t allowed. However, they do fly to Costa Rica, so my wife and I may use them when we are finally matched with our children. 🙂

This is probably waaaaaaay more info than you wanted. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I have 3+ years of knowledge accumulation from this “hobby” and regularly stay up to date with industry news.

Best, and God bless,

Ian

I definitely hope my friend Paul will now be able to accumulate a lot more airline miles for his future travels. While this “hobby” may seem pretty intimidating at first, it will easily become natural after you pick up one or two cards, bank the sign up bonuses, and start learning how to use your new points. The best advice I have is (a) check your credit and then (b) apply for a card or two. You can figure out the details later. The resources to learn are out there, waiting for you, all across the internet.
Questions sign image courtesy of NY Photographic. 

5 Reasons Why I Love Alaska Miles

There have been so many negative changes to the miles and points world over the past two years. The downhill likely started even earlier, but that was before I was really invested in this hobby. Right when I was thinking of reapplying for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the so-called “5/24” rule hit the streets. Then there was the devaulation of British Airways short-hop awards in North America. Followed by Marriott purchasing Starwood (which might not be negative, but it probably will be). Then the American Airlines general program devaulation.  Then the expansion of the Chase 5/24 rule.

Shining bright to me still was United’s award program. But now their incredible stopover rules are about to die. And alongside that are negative changes for the Citi Prestige card and for Citi cards in general. I really am not sure how much more of this I can take.

Yet one program is now standing a head above the rest: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Granted, Alaska made some major changes earlier this year to some partner awards, completely without warning. Which really made some people understandably angry. But looking beyond that, the Mileage Plan program may be my new favorite. Here are my five reasons:

1. Distance Based Award Mileage. Alaska Airlines is the final holdout among the major U.S. airlines where you actually earn award miles based on the distance flown rather than price paid. Considering that they don’t operate many long-distance international routes, the ability to earn lots of award miles on fare sales is pretty small.

Alaska began service to Costa Rica last year, which is one of their furthest away destinations.

For example, a ticket from LAX to SJO will earn you just shy of 5,500 redeemable miles, while probably costing a bit shy of $400. The earning is good, nearly 3x what you would earn under the program of a revenue based domestic airline, but it isn’t the insane amount you used to score if you caught a sub-$500 round-trip to Asia.

All things considered, revenue earning puts you ahead on some domestic tickets. I will nearly always earn more miles from cash fare than flown miles on short hops. But it’s the principle of the matter! Why call them miles if you aren’t earning the miles you fly? I like Alaska Miles, because they are actually miles.

2. Generous Stopover Rules. This was a recent find for me. I had previously thought that Alaska allows one-stopover per ticket in a “hub”. Which to me meant Seattle, and then a large range of partner hubs. But I was wrong on multiple counts.

Alaska allows one stopover for each one-way ticket, so they effectively allow two stopovers on a round-trip. That’s awesome. The Alaska award rules state that a stopover must be in a “hub”, but this is actually fairly broad. For example, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage all act as hubs on one-way routes from the lower 48 states. For intra-Alaska routes, I am not sure the “hub” rule actually applies. I was able to book a stopover in some remote places, as long as you were headed on another short hop to a further remote destination. Examples include Dutch Harbor to Kotzebue with a stopover in Nome (DUT-ANC-NME(stop)-OTZ), and Juneau to Barrow with a stopover in Prudhoe Bay (JNU-ANC-SCC(stop)-BRW). While these are not exactly routes that interest everyone, this at least proves to me that the “hub” stopover rule isn’t really a fixed list of cities and often depends on the origin, destination, and routing.

two intra_alaska awards

Two intra-Alaska valid award routes with stopovers in “non-hub” locations.

The only rule that seems to apply is that there is no backtracking. Some very cool itineraries are possible when you look beyond the U.S. A crazy one that I found was PDX-DCA(stopover), WAS-SEA-PEK for 50k miles in Business! Start in Portland, head across the U.S. and back, then take off for China on Hainan Airlines, an Alaska partner. You could see the U.S. and Chinese capitals all in one trip!

alaska_was killer_stopover

This insane route with Washington D.C. stopover is possible in business for 50,000 Alaska miles!

For a good explanation on Alaska award routing rules, read this post.

3. Several Sweet-Spots On Their Award Chart. Alaska has several award redemptions that shine. The first is as it should be: Alaska! Because the state of Alaska is considered part of the domestic U.S. on their award chart, you can get tickets to outlying places in Alaska for the same 12,500 points and $5.60 (or $11.20) as any other domestic award. Considering many remote places in Alaska are quite expensive, this is a great use of miles! A decent flight from the East Coast to Fairbanks to see the northern lights will set you back an easy $600. If you are interested in seeing even more remote areas, you can easily pay over a grand. Take the West Coast to the Aleutians, for example.

expensive alaska_flight

Use Alaska miles to fly to the Aleutian Islands to avoid paying insane fares.

If Alaska isn’t appealing, there are many other great award options, including U.S. to Australia/Oceania in business on either Fiji Airways or Qantas for 55,000 miles, U.S. to China in Hainan business for 50,000 miles, U.S, to Europe in coach for a mere 20,000 miles(!), U.S. to Asia in Cathay first for only 70,000 miles, and U.S. to the Middle East or India in Emirates business for 82,500 miles. The Emirates deal used to be even better, until Alaska pushed prices up significantly without warning.

4. Bank Of America Card Churning. You can basically get 25k-30k Alaska miles (depending on the deal) every few months by applying for an Alaska Airlines Visa Card with Bank of America. Since the $75 annual fee is not waived, this is essentially like buying a domestic round-trip ticket for just $75. Or you can save your miles for something fancier, like Fiji business class.

This deal is going to die. I know it. It is way too easy to churn the card. But until BofA kills it, I hope to take advantage of it a few more times. Granted, I might keep a card open now so that we can earn Alaska miles from spending.

5. Partner Flights Out Of ACV. This reason is completely personal. I live in a fairly remote area, and up until recently, United was the sole carrier serving the local Arcata-Eureka (ACV) airport. This gave United miles a special value in my mind (even though they failed miserably the only time I booked an award flight).

PenAir_plane_landing_at_ANC

A Pen-Air SAAB 340 landing at Anchorage International airport.

But then along came PenAir, which at first wasn’t an airline I really cared about. Everything changed when I discovered that they are a partner of Alaska Airlines! All of a sudden Alaska’s entire network is at my doorstep.

I could keep going on my new love of Alaska miles. The reward program has always been appealing, but the fact that a partner airline now serves ACV airport is gold. If you lived in remote northwest California, you’d understand. It’s so nice to only drive 45 minutes to the airport rather than 4-5 hours. To fly anywhere.

Header image and Pen Air image courtesy of Frank Kovalcheck via Wikimedia Commons.

Delta Portland To Amsterdam In Economy: A Review

As part of a trip to Europe this summer, I made my first Delta SkyMiles redemption ever for two one-way tickets from San Francisco, California to Nice, France. The trip was a three leg journey, with stops in Portland and Amsterdam. Because it was my first Delta flight in four years, and the first long-haul international flight I have taken in quite a while, I figured I should write a review.

First off, this flight is a really odd routing. When I booked the tickets back in March, I was quite surprised that a Portland-Amsterdam Delta route exists. My understanding was that Delta has West Coast hubs in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles (to an extent), but not Portland. For a saver award to Europe, I completely expected the booking engine to route us through one of Delta’s eastern hubs, such as Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Atlanta, or JFK.

Amazingly, the Portland routing wound up as the only saver level option over the dates I wanted! It was a three-leg flight, but it honestly didn’t seem that bad. At least on paper. We would have a short hop from SFO to Portland, then the long leg to Amsterdam on Delta flight 178. A final hop of a couple more hours on a KLM flight would take us to Nice. The tickets cost 30,000 Delta SkyMiles and $19.60 each. Flights were pricing out at over a grand for a round trip, so this was a great deal, in my opinion.

We arrived at the Portland airport via an Alaska flight from San Francisco, leaving us a few hours to kill. Our flight was Delta 178, departing at 1:30. The gate was easy to find, and we ate lunch and talked while we waited. We were early, and the gate was at the very end of the terminal, so it was nice and quiet.

delta pdx_ams pdx

Portland International Airport, Concourse D.

As an aside, I really liked this part of the Portland airport. My wife and I traveled through PDX Concourse C a few months earlier, home to Alaska and Southwest flights, and it was packed! Concourse D was a nice change.

While we waited, I pulled out our tickets to look them over yet again. Due to some complication with Alaska’s online check-in system, we had been given a terrible seating assignment. My wife and I were placed in seats across the cabin from each other, completely separated by the middle section of the Airbus 330. Not exactly what we wanted for a 10 hour flight.

Luckily, this was easily fixed by checking in online again, this time through Delta’s website, and I moved our seats to 17D and 17F. They were middle seats in a center row of 4, but it was the only option I was being given to sit together. Per the seat map, the flight looked extremely full.

When the gate agents arrived, I kindly asked if there were any pairs of open window seats available. After a moment of searching, she said yes, but for a fee. Figuring these were Delta Comfort+, I turned the offer down. We had seats together, and that is what really mattered to us. We could manage in the middle for the 10 hours.

delta pdx_amx onboard

Somehow we were boarding group 2, even though I canceled my Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex.

We boarded about 15 minutes late, and Kels and I settled into our seats. I expected people to sit on either side of us per the slim pickings, but the doors closed, and no one had. Looking around me, I saw far more open seats than I had expected. Researching online later, I realized that Delta offers ‘preferred seats’ to its elites and higher fare classes. This annoyed me. I thought economy was economy, at least on the legacy carriers. I understand if Frontier tried to charge me more for a bulkhead seat. The ‘preferred’ seats weren’t even Comfort+ with extra legroom! The fact that roughly half of the economy seats were designated ‘preferred’ meant a saver award simply cannot get you any two seat window/aisle combo. Arg.

The plane took off just a few minutes late. We had a good amount of time to make our Amsterdam connection, so I wasn’t worried at all. Each seat a blanket, a tiny pillows, ear buds, and a ‘sleep kit’. Very thoughtful, but we didn’t end up sleeping much.

Each seat also had a seat-back entertainment system. We first watched a movie together on my wife’s iPad, but later used the entertainment systems to each watch one separately. The movie selection was decent. When not using the system for a movie, we would keep the map on.

delta pdx_ams flight_map

During the middle of the flight, each of us tried to lay down for a while. Sleep was pretty futile. There were a couple center rows that people had entirely to themselves, and they were able to lay down completely. At first I envied them, but I quickly realized that even without having to prop my feet on my wife’s lap, I still was unlikely to really fall asleep.

The main meal service was actually better than I expected. It consisted of a chicken and rice dish, a salad, a roll, and a small, dense dessert cake. It was typical packaged airplane food, but honestly not that bad. I would show you a picture, if I had not forgotten to take one.

At some point the crew dimmed the lights. It was before I was really that tired, but I am guessing it was to help ease the transition to Amsterdam time. After our first movie, I was still doing pretty well, and I decided to watch Jurassic Park on the in-flight entertainment system. From there it was downhill. Since the row was only occupied by the two of us, we took turns trying to get a little sleep. Neither of us really succeeded beyond a short nap.

The lights came back on and breakfast was served as we neared Europe. Breakfast was on the light side for me, consisting of yogurt, a croissant, jelly, Tillamook cheese, orange juice, and mentos. There was also a fresh nap, which didn’t taste very good. Alright, I didn’t eat it.

delta pdx_ams breakfast

Breakfast aboard Delta flight 178.

As we descended over the Netherlands, I really, REALLY wished I had a window seat. The countryside looked magnificent, and I took in as much as I could from my seat in the center section. I always love landing…nearly as much as take off!

delta pdx_ams AMS

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

We touched down in Amsterdam right on schedule, leaving us plenty of time to find our way to the gate for our fight to Nice, France. In our sleep-deprived stupor, we needed all the time we could get. We were starting a new day with maybe an hour of sleep, and it would be a long one.

Now you are probably thinking, “this isn’t much of a review.” Which is fine. It’s basically just a confirmation that international economy flights are long and exhausting, but at least you know that Delta will feed you acceptable food, give you something to watch for ten hours, and provide you with thin blankets and tiny pillows to trick you into thinking that you will sleep. Don’t be fooled, you probably won’t.

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